Financial Arrangements and Relationship Quality in Low-Income Couples

Fenaba Addo, Cornell University

This study explores the relationship between household financial arrangements and relationship quality using the Marital and Relationship Survey, a dataset of low-income married and cohabiting couples with coresident children. We test whether individualistic versus collectivized management systems increase the likelihood of reporting higher relationship quality scores using two measurement systems, income management and bank account ownership, on seven different quality measures. The results indicate large numbers of couples report pooling and owning joint accounts; economic disadvantage indicators predict men will maintain independent management systems more than women. Shared systems increase relationship quality, whereas individualistic systems undermine trust, perceptions of support, reduce communication, and increase conflict. Our results suggest dissatisfaction with familial fiscal arrangements may also be reflected in various ways; the fiscal arrangement of less advantaged families may now be an even more salient topic with regards to family functioning, particularly for those families experiencing economic challenges.

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Presented in Poster Session 6